“Lily, on a Bench”

Written by Jonathan Hall (iPhotographyCourse Student)

This is the shot straight out of the camera:

Doesn’t look too bad right? But we can change a few things. This short guide will show you which buttons I used and how I used them. ☺

Now I’m doing this from scratch, so it may not come out the same this time. Above is the settings view you get when you open a RAW file in Photoshop. So here I have adjusted the white balance a little, as it was daylight at the time. Boosted the exposure
a tiny bit, used the Recovery slider to bring back any details that you couldn’t originally see (adds noise). Fill Light boosts the brightness and shadows all over the picture, Blacks darkens the blacks. Then I added +15 to clarity to give it a little

When you’re done, hit Enter, the shot now looks like this:

As you can see, there is a little difference here, but we’re not finished yet, not by a long shot.

Now that the shot is open in Photoshop you can get into your usual workflow, I will explain mine for you here. The first thing I do, is make the picture as big as possible on my screen, so that I can see the changes I make more clearly.


Step 1 for me, is to always duplicate the background layer (right click it), so I can see my changes and if they are too much, or detract from the original shot.

Then I add a curves layer and just adjust the arrows ever so slightly, only by between 5-6 points each.

Click the middle one then choose Curves:

This then adds this little panel and a new layer to your project.

Here you want to click the black arrow and then the white arrow and move them in ever so slightly, this adds a boost to the blacks and the whites of the shot, giving it a little more “pop”.

When you have this looking right to you, take a look at the original shot and see how the curves layer has affected this. To do this, click the eye symbol next to the “curves 1” layer, that turns it invisible, clicking the eye back on makes it visible,
you should notice a little difference, a good difference between the 2 images now.

Now you can flatten the image, so making this new image with the curves adjustment your default image. To flatten it right click any of your layers and choose:

Alternatively you can click “layer” on the tool bar at the top, then look for “Flatten Image” near the bottom of the options.

Don’t worry, you won’t lose your original RAW file, I’ll show you how to get back to the original shot soon. ☺

Healing/Blemish Removal:

Now we duplicate the background layer again, this background now includes the curves adjustments we made above. This new layer is usually where I zoom in on the face, or any other skin that is available so we can remove Blemishes, now not everyone wants
these removed, but I’ll show you how.

So when we’re zoomed in the image may appear a little noisy, I will be fixing that in Lightroom near the end of the guide here.

Now right click on the healing tools part of your left action bar, it will look like this (the plaster):

Select the Healing Brush, not the Spot Healing tool.

Now we can get to work on those blemishes. ☺

Zoom in and find any, like this one below near Lily’s nose:

Before (Note the tiny little red mark…yes maybe I am nitpicking here)

There may not be many you need to fix, depending on the subject. First, adjust your brush size, as you only need a small brush for most things. Then hold the ALT key and click a clean piece of skin near to your blemish, this sets a source point that
Photoshop will use to perform the healing. Now either just click on the Blemish to remove it, click and brush over it. Usually, just a click or 2 will do.

Note that if you click and hold to brush, your source point moves with the brush too, to try and intelligently follow you and fix the blemish. This doesn’t always work out well, so single click instead as this doesn’t move the source point.

After (Note the tiny red mark is gone and it looks like it was never there.

Now take the time to look around your picture, find anything that distracts either on the skin, or a stray hair along her face, anything can be removed with careful use of the Healing tools.

The noise you can see there was added when we used the Recovery slider earlier, as it does add noise when it repairs the image, this will be removed later on in Lightroom.

Face before use of the healing tools: (Marks on cheek and by the nose, crumbs on cheek)

Face after healing up a bit: (Marks gone, removed by eye, cheek mark and some food stuck to her other cheek hehe)

Skin Smoothing:

When I’m done with all that, I flatten it once more and then duplicate it again. This is the stage where I use the “Imagegnomic Portraiture” plugin to help smooth the skin. This is quite expensive, so give the last 2 modules of the course a watch to
see how you can do it without that. You can get a trial of it too, if you want to see if it is worth it. If you’ve more money than sense, like me, it does save a lot of time. If you use Lightroom then give this video a look, it is great for LR users:


Using the Portraiture plugin is super easy, you just select your layer, click Filter at the top and look for “Imagegnomic”, most likely near the bottom, if you use it a lot though it will appear at the top.

This opens a big window with lots of different things you can mess around with. The “Threshold” setting is what you’re after here. Now there are default settings, accessed from a drop down box at the top of the page, I don’t think Glamour model works
for this though hehe.

I usually leave it on “default” and experiment between 10 and 20 threshold, to get the right look for me. The threshold at this level isn’t very obvious, it just makes things a little smoother. Now with kids you don’t really need to do this, but I was
experimenting with this shot, so decided to give it a go.

Adding the Red Background Light:

In the original shot, I messed around with hue/saturation layers to get the reddish background, well here I’m going to use a solid colour layer instead. So click the new layer mask button at the bottom and select:

Now pick your colour and you end up with a layer like this:

At first it literally is just a big block of the orangey/red over everything, but we now mess with the opacity and fill sliders of the layer to get the look we want:

We end up with something like this here:

We don’t want this affecting everything quite so much, so we use the brush tool now (from the left hand action bar).

Ensure that near the bottom of your action bar this looks like this, with the black above the white, if not press the little arrow to swap them around.

Now we use the brush to paint directly onto the shot, where we paint will not be affected by the solid colour layer we added before.

To easily see where you’ve brushed, look at your layers list at the bottom right and click channel, then tick “colour fill 1 mask”, this adds a red glow to where we’ve painted over:

For this, I want to paint over Lily and some of the bench, to make it look a little better. It will ask you to rasterize the solid colour layer before continuing, so make sure you’ve got the look you want and then press OK. Before you start painting
over, make sure you have the Color Fill mask selected, or you won’t see the red.

When done, you end up with something like this:

Unselecting the Colour Fill 1 Mask, removes the red, allowing us to see what we have done, be careful with your brush strokes, as if they go too far over your outline, it can add something like a “halo” around the subject, where the red fill layer isn’t

Here we still have the red tint to the background, but not to Lily herself.

Improving the Eyes:

When you’re happy with this, flatten it and duplicate it once more. ☺

This layer we’re going to work on the eyes, we will make them brighter and way more pronounced. You need to be careful on this stage, to ensure they aren’t too doll like.


After: (Brighter and whiter)

To get this effect and make them pop we can use the History brush set to “screen mode”. You can find this on our action bar at the left of the screen.

To ensure it is set to “Screen”, look at the top of the page:

The course module recommends around 17% opacity, I’ve found that 17% works for me too. Now zoom right in on the eyes so you can see all of the detail. Reduce your brush size so it’s not too big, now the way I do it, is to single click on the white areas
first, not too much, 1 or 2 clicks works. Then click on any white highlights on the iris and pupil. I draw a quick circle with the brush over the iris then. You can see a before and after comparison above.


When you have the eyes right, we want to apply a smart sharpen filter, to remove any niggling lens blur, now we don’t need this to be too much, just a little. I don’t bother with a new layer for this, as we’re coming to the end of it now.

On the top action bar click “Filter” and then head down to Sharpen

This opens up a window like this:

Ensure you have lens blur selected. The default sharpening amount is around 200%, I reduce it to 14 as if I did it right in the camera, there shouldn’t be any lens blur, clicking OK then gives us our nearly finished picture.


When we have the shot looking good, we can then crop it, so select the crop tool and then use the rule of thirds if you want with the grid provided to crop your shot if needed.

Here you can either change from any kind of a crop, or to a pre-set size:

When you’re ready to crop, a grid appears, allowing you to follow the rule of thirds if wanted. I usually go for as 12 inch by 16 inch crop, at 300ppi (Pixels per inch). The higher the PPI you keep, the better the picture will print. Hit enter and it’s
cropped and ready to go into Lightroom.

Comparing your shot to the original shot:

Now would be a great time to check your shot and all of the edits you’ve made, against the original image, so click on the history button to open the history pane at the top right of the screen:

Clicking between the bottom action and the original file at the top “DSC_1288.NEF” will swap between those 2 states, allowing you to view the unedited shot and how much it has changed. Be sure to click back on the last action to get back to the final
shot. Note, that if you make a mistake during any of the editing, just click back to a state before it to remove it. ☺


To save it, you can either save it as a JPG, or as a TIF file, TIF files are larger and appear to hold the image together better, whereas JPG is compressed and eventually can lose the quality of the image. Click “File” at the top and then “Save as”,
then choose either JPG or TIF in the drop down file type box, enter your file name and hit enter.


Lightroom is where I edit most of my photos, I only use PS for shots that need a bit more of a helping hand. Find your saved JPG or TIF file and right click it, click “Open with…” and select Lightroom. This will open up the Lightroom import page, when
it shows your picture with a little tick on it, click “Import”. This will open up your “Library”. I’m using a new PC here, so there isn’t anything else there.

On the left of the screen are presets, clicking those will apply a set transformation to the picture. The one I use is called “punch” and is located in the “Lightroom General Presets”.

On the right are your actual developing tools, you can modify just about anything here:

I usually only use the ones I’ve included here, Basic has your white balance, shadows, the usual things. Detail allows us to remove noise from the shot. Click the square to the top left of the picture shown, to drag that preview somewhere else, I usually
put it on a bit of skin, or where the noise is really noticeable. Then move the noise reduction around till you get a good look, too much and it looks too smooth, not enough and you can see the noise. Note that if you take the shot right in the first
place you may not get too much noise. ☺

Now, head back to the “Presets” panel and click “Punch”. This adds saturation, vibrancy and clarity. Sometimes it can be a little harsh, but it does add a great “pop” to an image, or “punch” in this case. If it is too much, lower the clarity slider.

By default, “Punch” changes clarity to about 30, I usually half it, as I don’t want to stray too much from the Photoshop image.

Saving the Final Image:

Then you’re done, click File at the top left, then Export and this appears:

I always put my images into a sub folder of my main folder. So my maijn folder is called “The Park, 12-3-14”, the place and date. Inside this goes a folder called “Fixed” that I put all of my edited shots in. It helps keeps things tidy. Click Export
and you’re done.


The way this shot ended up might not be your idea of a good shot, I added the redish colour, as at the time I was in love with Autumnal shots, with the orange leaves and orange sun light. Here in Ireland I can’t find that, so I decided to try make it
for myself using PS, did it work? Perhaps not, but I had fun learning the tools in PS.

Before picture:

After picture:


I know there are issues with the shot, but I had fun making this and making the guide, if it helps you out in any shape or form, then that is something good that has come out of it.

If you’re not a fan of the red lighting, don’t add it, in which case you come out with this instead:

I have this on my wall at home on a big canvas, it looks amazing. ☺

Happy Snapping!

My sites://www.viewbug.com/member/jon–hall and https://www.flickr.com/photos/jon–hall/

Full size shots of the above can be found on my Flickr, take a look! ☺ Jonathan

‘Once again. A great big thank you to Jonathan for sharing his experience with all the students at iPhotographyCourse.com


Learn photography the iPhotography™ way

There’s no right or wrong way to take a photograph. But, if you spend all your time obeying the ‘rules’ of photography, your work will simply look like everyone else’s.

A shot can be technically perfect but aesthetically boring! That’s why iPhotography Course not only teaches you all the standard technical expertise, settings, skills, and special effects with your camera – but we also show you how to use these skills to develop your own individual style as a photographer.

Join our worldwide community